Black Swan

I can't say I wasn't warned. Between calls from JayFlix folks and a general impression from the trailers, I knew Darren Aronofsky ("The Fountain") was going to subject us to another one of his artistic endeavors. This is guaranteed to be an Academy Award nominee, so I should at least be conversant about it, don't you think? Billed as a psychological horror film, we watch the process as a sweet, virginal White Swan explores her dark side and manifests her inner Black Swan.

Like other Academy favorites, "The Wrestler," "No Country for Old Men," and "Monster," this one is unsettling in many ways. We start small: a split toenail, a truly icky hangnail, fingernails clipped too close, and pinfeathers growing out of our heroine's shoulder; but we graduate to hallucinations, delusions, and murderous nightmares, plus echoing hallways, darting shadows, and lots of mirrors...you know the drill.

A quick word about the principal actors:
  • Natalie Portman ("The Other Boleyn Girl" and much admired since her 1994 debut in "The Professional") is our insecure but ambitious ballet dancer.
  • Mila Kunis ("The Book of Eli") is our heroine's principle rival for the spotlight.
  • Winona Ryder ("Star Trek") is the aging star our ballerina replaces.
  • Vincent Cassel ("Mesrine") is the company manager whose job is to release and showcase our heroine's dark side.
  • Barbara Hershey ("Albert Schweitzer") is a faded diva, trying to recapture past glories through her daughter.
Much has been said about Natalie Portman's year-long transformation into a credible ballerina; we are treated to many scenes that feature her from the waist up, but I would be more impressed if the full-length shots of dancers weren't viewed from a distance or with Vaseline on the lens.

According to an interview I read, they knew it would be hard to attract men to a ballet movie, so they threw in a fairly explicit lesbian sex scene. I guess that does the trick, although I can't be positive.

As to the plot, by the time this thing is over, we aren't sure what is real, but not to worry; just don't say you weren't warned....